A Kaby Lake update makes Dell’s already excellent 15in laptop even more attractive.
When you first set your eyes on Dell’s Infinity Edge bezels, it’s hard not to be taken aback. It’s been a Dell staple for some time, yet I’m still impressed every time I see it on a new model. The same rings true for Dell’s latest XPS 15, but is it still the de facto Windows laptop in 2017?
This year’s XPS 15 doesn’t deviate from the looks of its predecessor, instead sticking with the smooth carbon fibre and aluminium combo of its 13.3in equivalent – albeit stretched to support that dominating 15.6in display. The XPS 15 remains a beautiful laptop. Its gun-metal body still tapers towards the front edge, measuring 11mm at its thinnest, and weighs a respectable 2kg.
As with last year’s model, the XPS 15 has that solitary Thunderbolt 3 USB-C port on its left side, sitting next to one USB 3 port, an HDMI 2 socket and a 3.5mm headset jack. The other USB 3 port can be spotted on the right, accompanied by an SD card slot.
The biggest change lies in that Kaby Lake upgrade inside. Our review model was equipped with a seventh-gen quad-core Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor clocked at 2.8GHz. And – unsurprisingly – it’s quite the performer.
It scored a total of 127 in our rigorous 4K benchmarking tests, up from 111 this time last year. It’s clear that multitasking is much improved on this year’s model, too, in part thanks to a generous 16GB of RAM. It’s second in our laptop hierarchy, just behind Gigabyte’s gaming-focused Aero 15.
Dell’s laptop is well-suited for the odd bout of light gaming too, with Dirt: Showdown running on Ultra settings at Full HD resolution at a stable 60fps. The culprit? There’s a 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 inside. Even the GPU-heavy title Metro: Last Light reached a stable 30fps on the more demanding settings.
Battery life, which is typically a major detriment on these sorts of machines, was excellent. Unlike recent Kaby Lake laptops I’ve tested, where battery life stuck to six or seven hours, the XPS 15, kept going for 10hrs 25mins in our video-rundown tests.
Expect that to drop significantly if you choose the more expensive 4K display model, but I tested the Full HD panel – which is a sight to behold in its own right. As always, Dell’s skinny Infinity Edge bezel works wonders, and this 15.6in screen looks even better than the previous model.
It helps that this Full HD display covers 91.2% of the sRGB colour gamut, producing wonderfully punchy colours, and the 1,612:1 contrast ratio makes for a detail-rich display from the darkest to the brightest pixel. Even its maximum brightness is on point: at 365cd/m2 the XPS 15 is perfectly suited for summertime reading. Should the need arise, there’s also a touchscreen configuration for the not-so-affordable asking price of $2,634.
Lift the lid, and you’ll spot the same issue I had with the XPS 15’s predecessor, however. The keyboard doesn’t take full advantage of all the space afforded to it; this is exactly the same keyboard as the XPS 13.
Regardless, its keys aren’t as cramped as they look. As with the XPS 13, you’re treated to a perfect amount of feedback with every satisfying keystroke, and each press has the right amount of tactile movement to make writing lengthy screeds more bearable. The large touchpad, on the other hand, makes perfect use of the extra space. It’s noticeably deeper than its smaller counterpart, which helps with those multi-touch finger flourishes.
Where its appeal palls is price: while the XPS 15 is the perfect marriage of raw performance and lavish looks, it doesn’t come cheap. It starts at $2,499, while the top-end model with a 4K touch display, Intel Core i7, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD will set you back a mortgage-inducing $3,699. But this is still an award-winning laptop. It might not have the instant visual impact of the diminutive XPS 13, but it’s crammed with unrivalled horsepower.